That is what Dan Caporale said was missing when he transitioned from the Marine Corps to the corporate world in 1996. And that how he describes Hire Our Heroes – the Leesburg-based non-profit organization he founded to help veterans who are facing the same hurdles as they leave the military today.
“There is such a disparity between corporate America, and companies that want to find and hire good veterans and veterans who are looking for a job and can’t make the right connection,” Caporale said. “Hire Our Heroes has really become the connective tissue that is bringing the two together.”
Caporale said Hire Our Heroes evolved out of his experience and what became his vocation when he left the military after eight years in the Marine Corps and Marine Corps Reserves – staffing services and job placement.
“I was a satellite communications specialist and I got out thinking – with all these great skills, I was going to get a great job,” he said. “I wound up in the staffing industry, something I didn’t really know anything about.
“Through the years, everybody knew I was a veteran and anytime someone came across a resume from a veteran they would ask me to talk to them. I built a pipeline of veterans through the years and people would say, ‘Hey, why don’t you talk to this guy?’”
Hire our Heroes now helps thousands of veterans a year with mentoring, training and job placement.
“Our goal is to help position veterans for success when they come out,” Caporale said. “About a year ago, we had a program where we flew about 100 veterans out to interviews. If they had an interview, anywhere in the United States, we would get them a plane ticket, buy them a suit, give them gas cards – whatever it took to get them to the front door.”
Caporale said the growth of Hire Our Heroes has been dramatic.
“Companies are now coming to us and saying, ‘We want to train these veterans and provide this service, can you help us?’ Through these partnerships, we now have multiple programs that veterans who qualify can choose from.
“Through FedVTE, we have cyber-security, which is our No. 1 program. We also have partnerships with NetApp, Salesforce, Amazon Web Service, SAP. We have about five or six solid programs.”
From his informal efforts helping veterans through his staffing connections, Caporale said two random encounters led to the formation and evolution of Hire Our Heroes. The first was after he spent a few years in Florida helping turn around a failing staffing company, he had his first encounter with the man who became, and still is, his partner.
“On my way back, somebody reached out to me from Quantico and said I have this Marine who has been in for 32 as a master gunnery sergeant, the highest enlisted rank there is,” Caporale said. “His name is Tim Kirk – I met him and he was just dynamic. Shortly thereafter, I hired him to come and stand up the government services division for the staffing company I was running.
“When he came in, every time I handed him a stack of resumes that were veterans it was like, ‘Hey, master gunny, we need to find these guys jobs.’ Every day it was another group of resumes and then he started flying resumes over to me. So, we had this friendly fire going back and forth about how we were going to try to help these veterans.
“He finally said, ‘You should do something with this. It’s great.’ I just said I was happy with the way things are, there aren’t enough hours in the day.”
The second encounter was with the man who had Caporale’s commanding officer when he was in the service.
“I got a call from my commanding officer who knew me back when I was a private and he was a major,” Caporale said. “He was now a full-bird colonel and he had more than 30 years in the Marine Corps and was getting out and he said, ‘Caporale, I’m getting out the service, can you help me find a job?’”
“That hit home. I walked across the hall to Tim’s office and said, ‘Hey, the stars have just aligned. My old commanding officer just reached out, let’s stand this thing up.’”
That man, Chuck Tulaney, now works here locally for Lockheed Martin and Caporale said he does veteran transition and brings veterans into the company. Hire Our Heroes, meanwhile, has gone on to help thousands of veterans transition back into civilian life and civilian careers.
“When we started, our goal was that if could help one more person today than we did yesterday, we’re successful in our mission,” Caporale said. “There are 100,000 getting out a year there just wasn’t enough being done.”
Caporale said the ideal situation would be if veterans began thinking about life after military service from the day they get in, whether they plan to do a four-year stint or make it a career.
“That’s not how we’re trained to think,” he said. “In the Marines, it was always take care of the troops and complete the current mission. We were taught to think about what comes down the line.”
Hire Our Heroes accepts any honorably discharged veterans and helps in any way needed.
“A lot of this is kneecap-to-kneecap,” he said. “We want to position veterans for success, but not everyone might agree on what that looks like.”
When they get out, the face many of the same obstacles as any job-seeker.
“The veterans are told to put together a resume, make some business cards and go to as many job fairs as you can and apply to as many jobs as you can,” Caporale said. “They were doing what they were told to do, but then 30 days later they don’t hear a thing. They are just going through the motions and two to three months later the veterans start to lose their self-worth. This is where so many veterans are committing suicide because they don’t know how to integrate back into the workforce and back into society.”
He said Hire Our Heroes offers mentoring and training to help “get those veterans off that Ferris wheel.” It is accomplishing that mission without any money from the government or the veterans themselves.
“We were a 100 percent volunteer organization until we hired our first full-time employee here about a year ago,” Caporale said. “We don’t take a dime in GI Bill money or anything from the vets.”
He said individuals can help by donating directly or offering jobs or mentoring services to the veterans. With thousands of veterans already helped, Caporale said he hopes to continue to grow Hire Our Heroes.
“We want to become the Amazon Prime of nonprofits,” he said.
For more information, go to hireourheroes.org.